Hiroshi Hirakawa‘s paintings are incredible, the sheer draftsmanship, use of colour and detail in his work is breathtaking. I’ve always loved this Japanese style of painting and block printing and Hirakawa’s work carries on in this tradition while keeping a contemporary feel. It’s hard to find out anything about him aside from the fact that he’s a well known tattoo artist – which goes someway to explaining his subject matter and style – who lives in Akita and has a love of ‘Ukiyoe’ which literally means ‘Pictures of the Floating World’.
Ukiyoe is a style of art that grew in the 1700s when Tokyo was called Edo. At the time there were alot of artists who created woodblock prints for theatres, restaurants and teahouses. Like any struggling artist, in any age, they did whatever they could do to make a living with their art which meant doing portraits of popular actors, beautiful teahouse girls, etc. Many of these woodblock artists also did tattoo related prints. Hirakawa has taken this tradition and used to to reflect life around him hence his enchanting portraits of tattooed figures. They’re some of the most beautiful images I have seen in a long time.